Wow what a jam! that real real shit…fresh beat, killer vocals…can’t help but fill the soul with an electrifying groove like this.
Your music seems to draw from many themes from different eras: some rockabilly, surf rock, alternative, to modern indie, folk, electronic synth pop. What would you say is at the core of your music and where do you guys draw a lot of your inspiration from?
I think we draw our inspiration most immediately from Los Angeles and Southern California. It’s such an interesting mix between the city vibe and surf culture that it’s hard not to write about it.
I love how you guys can play the same song through a multitude of channels, from polished and produced to stripped down and raw. What’s the ideal tension to hold between the two and how have you done it?
All the songs start off on an acoustic guitar when I write them so it’s very natural to go back to the initial idea. I love how the music transforms itself in the studio so when we play stripped down versions now we pepper in a few more things from the final version.
What was the vision for the recent release of Floodlights and how does it fit into the Soft Swells catalog?
The vision for this record was to steer away from synth rock a bit and go for more warm live band sounds. I know it has shocked a few people that really liked the first record but definitely think the change is super exciting, especially for me personally.
What’s it like trying to do what you do in LA, what would you tell other bands on their journey down there is key to not getting lost?
We honestly don’t pay attention to what anyone else does musically in LA. I think that is the key to longevity in a band. Go your own road and hope others will join. I would tell other bands not to see music as competition – and from there make your own path.
To date what’s the most intriguing/obscure/interesting story to tell from your current tour?
So there’s this road block in Sierra Blanca TX that’s apparently pretty famous for stopping and detaining bands on tour for having things in their pocket that are okay in CA, but not so much in TX (a quick Google search will direct you to a few stories about Willy Nelson, Fiona Apple, Nelly and others). Unfortunately we did not know about this evil gateway, and ended up having to go on for a couple days without our bass player. Hopefully we at least get to be included in the stories and infamy, but at the very least we got our bass player back unscathed (for the most part) and didn’t have to cancel any of the tour – RAWK & ROLL!!!
Album Droppin’ Tuesday: Hozier, Shakey Graves, Broods, Field Report, The Barr Brothers, Zola Jesus, Caribou
So it’s taken me the full week to absorb the mass amount of music dropped this week…
Hozier – Hozier
Shakey Graves – And The War Came
Broods – Evergreeen
Field Report – Marigolden
The Barr Brothers – Sleeping Operator
Zola Jesus – Taiga
Caribou – Our Love
I had the chance to sit down on a pile of pallets with Christopher Denny out back the Tractor Tavern before he took the stage a few nights back. A truly open and honest dude with his heart on his sleeve. He’s definitely endured more than his fair share of struggles along the way, but seems to take on each day one at a time with a dedication and passion for playing music.
His Unique Style
It’s hard not to recognize the unique voice that Christopher has. It’s very distinctive and there’s just something about it that holds an old soul to it. “Finding yourself is hard because its not who you thought you were gonna be. Being different isn’t something you go around talking about. I felt good when people told me I was different, but I didn’t know or think that it’d make me feel better about myself, but it did. I think any type of attention has always been good. You turn on the radio and hear so many of the same things, and from an early age I’ve always enjoyed anything that makes you turn you head or turn it up because it’s different, otherwise it just gets old real quick.”
I asked Christopher where his style stems from and where he drew inspiration from. “I grew up (in Little Rock, Arkansas) listening to 80’s radio with my mom, my dad was a southern rock guy, but my grandma was who I was always around and really got me into music and then my grandpa too. Old country, gospel, my grandma would get me into these quartets, we use to go see Jimmie Davis when he was like 80 years old. The first time I heard Nashville Skyline (Bob Dylan) it was really like whoa, and then the first time I heard Jeff Buckley I was like ‘I don’t like this’ and then I couldn’t stop listening to it and it became a real changing moment.”
“We moved away from Austin, and we really wanted to move up to Pennsylvania. Before we left, we went on this little tour, and it was my first tour back in years, and I’m considering this tour (now) my ‘first’ tour back because that one was just so bad, it was humbling. It’s been a deep dark valley, it’s been tough, really tough, I’m having to remember why I want to do this, but then I got on this tour. After rolling down the road in a tin can which can be beautiful and miserable, you get to the show, your nervous as fuck, you start playing and realize it’s a good deal. You get fulfilled, the crowds boost you up, and the crowds have been really good on this tour, they’ve been really supportive of me as an opener. I’m just getting back to where I’m use to being back on stage again, I wish I had some great story for you, I use to have a bunch of them, but they were drug driven.” I asked Christopher if Tour was kind of his rehab, he said it wasn’t so much his rehab as his new addiction to get him through.
“So much of this has been so many years, where I’m at right now with it is what I’ll talk about, but the path to it, it’s sort of treacherous and painful. But I will say that I’m loving the record (If the Roses Don’t Kill Us), and the more I hear about it, and I’ve read some things that people have written about it, the happier I am with the way we made it. I honestly don’t know how I feel completely, the path was a lot of pain, my father died, my mom’s been in rehab and jail like 5 or 6 times, I went through heroin and methadone, and feeling like the record label were my mortal enemies, and then realizing that they cared. I had to deal with the fact that I’m kind of insane in that I can think someone is out to get me when they’re not. I’ve gotten on some meds for my depression, and realizing that since I’ve been on those, I haven’t just left people, or not paid my rent, and ended up on the street, and that this whole time I really needed that stuff. Also realizing that I’m a little bit broken, wearing sleeves sometimes because I’m embarrassed, and then letting it all hang out, I’ve got scars and a whole lot more on the inside than the outside.”
Christopher talked a bit about the high-caliber talent that was brought in on the record. “My friend PJ Herrington was the manager, and he said ‘I’m gonna put some people together’ and I said ‘I’m just gonna trust ya’ and he got Dave Sanger to produce it (Asleep at the Wheel). Then they just started pulling folks in, and it just happens, you bring real players and you’re good to go. I had a moment when I was playing with Glen Fukunaga (bass – Dixie Chicks & Robert Plant) and he was just so in the pocket, I actually thought he was off, but actually he was just so on. There was also this moment where I was playing these little leads on ‘Radio’ and he just looked over and was looking at me like that’s fucking tasty, and I was just thinking this is awesome. It was cool, this guy’s looking over at me, I’m doing my thing, this guy’s played with some of the best players in the world, and he’s looking over at me and it’s not my voice that he cares about, I’m playing guitar and he’s appreciating it. I didn’t feel like I had to have so much control (on the record) and in doing so I got so much more than I could have asked for.”
Aside from a little bit of time in Twin Falls, ID this was pretty much Christopher’s first time through the Northwest. I asked him a bit about what he thought. “I tell you what, beautiful coming in, those mountains out there, that is gorgeous. Then when you get up here, it’s scary for me to be kind of locked in, sort of like when I’m in Brooklyn, I feel kind of trapped, but you know I’ve realized how small I am, and I can get through all this shit.”
Definitely a transformed sound from his earlier stuff, but I’m like really really digging it. I’m with John Richard’s and the cast of KEXP on this one…I just can’t stop playing this song!…
First thing I love about PHOX is how unique and vast the sound is that comes in through so many different angles, what are some of the guiding principles the band gets behind to deliver this?
I think one of our guiding principles is to have as few guiding principles as possible, haha. We all come from very different musical backgrounds, and we encourage each other to use our weapons and styles as efficiently as we can. We try to keep in mind that what we are doing is serving and enhancing the song, and hopefully not taking away.
You guys are blasting into one of the best musical season’s of the year with self-titled debut album in hand just days after the official start of summer, what’s in store? and what are you most looking forward to?…besides Seattle of course
Seattle! Duh! But really, we are going to be touring pretty consistently for the rest of the year. We are embarking on our first headline tour which should be great! I’m a sucker for the west coast, so that’s what’s calling my name this summer.
Speaking of the recent release of the self-titled debut album, tell us more about how the mold of that record got started, what went into it leading up to recording, the magic once hitting the studio, and what came out?
The new album was an interesting process. We had some song ideas coming together in the fall, and then come winter we were hitting it pretty hard, including a few pre-production sessions with our producer, Brian Joseph. Despite all this “preparation” it actually ended up being a fairly rushed process anyway. That being said there was definitely a magical aura at April Base (the studio), and we all feared having to leave by the end of our stay. We are so grateful that the Eau Claire crew invited us into their world. What came out is a slightly more refined PHOX, but still the same spirit and essence at the core.
I see you’ve already sold out months down the road in the hometown of Madison, WI…how powerful is that hometown love? and how has it shaped the band to this day?
To say that Madison has shaped us is perhaps an understatement. Madison is the reason this band ever happened. It was where we found a home together. Our very first shows were because we had friends in Madison who wanted to help, and there are friends and fans who have come to every show since day 1, when we had no songs, no practice, and no idea what we were doing. It’s incredible how much Madison has believed in us, even before we believed in ourselves, and that kind of trust and love is very special.